Foodborne Outbreaks Mar the American Potluck Tradition

The recent Minnesota E. coli outbreak that may be associated with a potluck dinner highlights the need for effective food safety regulation and education. “Without sanitation guidelines and without proper warnings on food labels to protect the public, these outbreaks will continue to mar the American potluck tradition,” states foodborne illness lawyer Fred Pritzker.

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Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) August 11, 2006

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has launched a full scale investigation into at least fifteen E. coli cases in the Longville, Minnesota area. Although investigators have not yet pinpointed a particular food source, they have confirmed that the outbreak has been associated with a potluck held on July 19 at Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minnesota.

Of the fifteen confirmed E. coli cases, four have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, one of the most dangerous foodborne pathogens. E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe dehydration and intestinal hemorrhaging (evidenced by bloody diarrhea). The pathogen can also lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the leading cause of kidney failure in children in the United States. Two of the four people who have tested positive have suffered some of these serious consequences of E. coli O157:H7 poisoning.

Potlucks have been the source of other outbreaks and are associated with foodborne illness risk factors. Food at potlucks is often left at room temperature for extended periods of time. Food preparers may have undercooked meat, allowed raw meat to cross-contaminate produce or prepared the food while capable of transmitting a foodborne illness.

Minnesota food safety laws exempt potlucks from licensure requirements and food inspections. Nonetheless, retail suppliers and manufacturers of ingredients for potluck dishes must maintain sanitary conditions. Foodborne illness lawyer Fred Pritzker, who represented victims of a 2005 E. coli outbreak linked to Dole prepackaged salads, emphasizes that the underlying cause of this outbreak is unknown. “In the 2005 outbreak, investigators first linked the outbreak to Rainbow stores and only later determined that Dole salads were the source,” said Pritzker. “The Longville outbreak may still be traced back to a particular product.”

Pritzker also said that regardless of its source, the Longview outbreak highlights the need for effective food safety regulation and education. “Without sanitation guidelines and without proper warnings on food labels to protect the public, these outbreaks will continue to mar the American potluck tradition.”

To help food preparers and servers keep their potlucks safe from E. coli O157:H7 and other foodborne pathogens, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) publishes Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety. This free brochure may be be viewed and ordered at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Cooking_for_Groups_index/index.asp.

Pritzker | Ruohonen & Associates, P.A. is one of the few law firms in the United States that practices extensively in the area of foodborne illness litigation. The firm has collected millions of dollars on behalf of victims of E. coli O157:H7 poisoning and other foodborne illnesses. For more information, visit http://www.pritzkerlaw.com or contact Fred Pritzker at (612) 338-0202. The firm's offices are located at Plaza VII, Suite 2950, 45 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402.

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